The polarisation of American society over this Presidential Election is the worst I have ever witnessed.
The partisan hatred between Republican and Democratic camps has grown in vitriol and anger with each passing week. Each side seems entirely blind to anything the others says. To a point where it has become astounding. The level of debate has become not about ideas or policy but which of the candidates is the worst person. Indeed rather than question their own candidate over anything both sides opt for the path of least resistance. Instead of trying to justify the actions and words of their chosen they attack the other candidate.
This is, to be fair to both sides, not a new tactic. I am sure if we could look back at the senates of old Rome we would hear Pro-console Trump denigrating Pro console Clinton, rather than explain the plan they didn’t actually have to get the rats out of the sewers beneath the Coliseum. A major campaign promise of course…
The problem, however, is the sheer vitriol that is expressed in these attacks. If any other candidate had said or done half as much as Trump, they would never have made it to the candidacy. Yet rather than turning against his increasingly controversial statements, or even questioning them, his supporters rally to point out the flaws in his opposite number Hillary. Mrs Clinton herself is far from saintly, though the list of political ‘crimes’ she has committed is increasingly hysterical in nature, and I do not use the word in the sense of comedy here.
Yet this is not actually all Trump’s fault. Indeed Trump is a symptom, not the disease, the disease is the right wing media, the Republican parties lurch to the right in recent years.
Back when Obama ran against McCane, the Republican candidate was the first to espouse rhetoric that became the birther movement. He refused to stand and watch while others tried to claim Obama was a Muslim or a foreign national by birth. He was also the last Republican candidate to make a stand against the ridiculousness of that protracted lie. While Romney 4 years ago did not make direct reference to it, he also did not try to expunge it from the campaign. For the 8 years of the Obama presidency, the vitriol of the Republican press, the Fox network and the blocking tactics in the Senate have widened the gap between reality and republicanism. The rhetoric is no longer the ever hopeful, positive, optimistic ‘shining city on the hill’ of Reagan. Hatred, anger and blame have become the watch words. The darker extremes of the Republican movement have moved to the floor.
It’s not just Trump, look at the state of Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LaPage, a man who spouts racism, anti-immigration, sexism, and obscene remarks so often that it has ceased to be news-worthy anymore. Yet he remains in office. A man who describes himself as a Trump supporter before Trump even ran for office. Indeed, if anything Trump for all his outrageous statements is a mild manor political animal compared to LaPage. (for more on Lapage read the NY Times item linked below)
None of this is to blame the Republican party supporters alone, the vitriol runs from both sides of the debate.
In the latest debate, a presidential candidate talked about haveing the other arrested and imprisoned if they won ( and forcing the AG to do so). It was the kind of statement you would expect in some 3rd world directorship, (BTW the last American president who tried to force an AG to prosecute someone was Nixon. The AG resigned as it was unconstitutional, and beyond the powers of the presidency, but then that candidate seems to have no idea about now the political structures of the USA work, so somehow it’s unsurprising. Yet even this has led to further bunkering down of the respective sides. It no longer matters what you say, it only matters that you can point to the other side and say they are worse.
“Lying Hilary…..” as has become Trumps rallying cry. This from a man whose capacity for mistruth seems even greater than his ego. Yet even when Trump is caught out with lies, they are brushed aside by his supporters.
“I never said that…” a response to the claim that China made up global warming to disadvantage American business. Yet he most certainly did and on Twitter. Yet his supporters response is to point out the ‘lies’ of the other side. It’s a case of ‘forget my wrongs look at her wrongs’, and again the Clinton campaign is not blameless here.
My fear goes deeper than this. However, it is that after November the 8th what will be left behind no matter who wins (and I hope it’s not the bewigged one ) is a divided nation, scarred across political lines at war with itself. Because currently, all I can see is people talking about how much they hate the other team, and utterly ignoring anything about their preferred candidate…
Luckily for me, I don’t live in the US, my opinion is of no weight, and perhaps that very separation gives me the ability to see context more. But what I see is a divided nation, and I can not see that whoever wins in November will change that. Some divisions run deep, and America looks more and more like two desperate sides facing off at each other.
Well, at least, that’s never caused a problem before …..